A little-known application
comes back to life as Tim Conrardy explores the left-hand
side of MIDI
In my web searches, I
stumbled across a programmer's page in which a certain
programmer was writing about some SysEx utilities he
developed for the Atari platform. I decided to contact
him for availability. In doing so, he responded very
positively by providing as freeware several previously
commercial applications. These were developed in Germany
by Jochen Nies (The Joker) and his companion Petra Wolf.
They are now available. These include ZEUS, an editor/librarian
for Emu Morpheus/Ultra Proteus. The next offering is
Prophy, a Korg Prophecy bank loader. The last offering
and perhaps the most interesting is MIDIGEN.
MIDIGEN is an
algorithmic MIDI GENerator created for Jochen's personal
use by his companion Petra Wolf. It was not a commercial
application. However, it is now being released to the
unsuspecting Atari MIDI community in hopes it will be
used in exploring other facets of music. It sounds like
M, Tunesmith and Schoenberg Composer all rolled into
one. According to Jochen, MIDIGEN was planned to be
a "simple" MIDI event generator (for mostly
note on/off and controllers), to overcome the poor user
interfaces of the early '90s synths. It grew bigger
and bigger. It was designed for use in his live set-up,
for improvised music.
There are 6 sets of 21 generators
each. It can send data on four MIDI channels, up to
six controllers are available. MIDI and controllers
have basically the same generation algorithms: random
within range, intervals within range (ascending, descending
and permutational-order) for generation of MIDI notes
there are additional features:
- Parameters for applying
the 12-tone rule (has to go through all notes of
scale, before a note repeats).
- Tone interval: Sets
the interval to 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16 of a note
- Dauer: Length of
generated note (the polyphony is 5 notes per channel).
- Mono: For monophonic
synths, sends a Note Off before playing the next
note controller only, switches off note generation
for that generator (mostly to preserve computational
- Timer T: Adds a
random timing interval from a range.
- Timer P: The same
for generating program-changes.
loads, a generator screen comes up over the main screen.
Notice you can scroll the windows left and right. If
you click into the main screen (or close the generator
screen) and then click into any of the "control"
boxes with zeros in them, this brings up a screen in
which you can change the playing parameters.
Clicking into Play will
cause what is programmed into the generator screen to
output its data. Experiment by clicking into control
boxes in the main screen to see what is programmed in
them. Then stop everything and try entering parameters
of your own within the parameter screen, select Play
and hear the results. You can tinker with this for hours!
You can also create tonal
effects as well as random events, such as automatic
patch changing, for some real interesting textures.
Once you change a parameter, you can select the little
check-box next to it to activate it.
The live element comes
into play when you are on the main generator screen.
You can select a generator by hitting a QWERTY key or
function key. Thus you can generate all sorts of things
all at the same time. You can have one generator set
up for percussion, others for bass, and another for
melody or complete random craziness! (Which seems to
be its strong point) Careful planning on which generators
to trigger can be part of the compositional process
when working with MIDIGEN.
MIDIGEN works well on
all STs, Falcons and TT030s with at least 1 MB RAM.
For those with a 19" monitor (for TT High: 1,280x960
resolution) MIDIGEN is a real treat as you can spread
out all the generator and parameter screens at once.
It looks nice on a Falcon as well. 3D buttons and multiple
screens make working with MIDIGEN a joy.
While there is no documentation
for MIDIGEN yet, you can learn by the sure and tried
method of point-and-click! I have discovered some "hidden
screens" this way. Here is the method:
Clicking into one of
the control boxes will bring up the parameters screen.
Then click into "Takt". Another screen presents
itself. Then clicking into "Zeige" will bring
up another very graphical screen with six "mixer"
controls. Granted, I do not know what they do, but it
is worth exploring. There is more to this program than
meets the ear! MIDIGEN also works in the Steem emulator
for Windows, thus expanding its usefulness beyond TOS
It is programs like MIDIGEN
that make the Atari platform unique. You will not find
another program on any platform that can do what MIDIGEN
does. A jewel in the Atari MIDI heritage.